Working Together For You (Yes, You.)

22 Sep

The Coles near me has just finished a refit of the premises, and like moccasins at a garage sale I was pulled in with promises of calico and free samples. As I wandered around sampling various things on toothpicks I became  overtly aware of how good the new store design really was.  It has been the assertion of several social critics that my generation is the most aware of marketing, which is why a lot of companies try so hard to market towards us. Walking around that supermarket has never made me more aware of this, as I picked up on dozens of cosmetic differences designed to improve what is basically an identical service: the good-old-fashioned cycle of go in, pick up some stuff, pay for it and leave is still in place. My local Coles would have functioned perfectly well with no improvement, so the refit is the result of some invisible problem observed by upper management.

If any marketing people (god forbid) read this, I’d be interested in your response here. I’m only having a guess at how this kind of logic works, and any further insight would be interesting.

A few interesting changes:

  • There are now fewer, wider aisles. The top shelf is a few feet lower, and everything looks closely packed together. Rather than looking cluttered, most products seemed to be organised into shelves by brand, and then complimentary colours. There are also a lot more lights, hanging much lower.
  • Generally speaking, they now seem to stock smaller amounts of  a wider variety of products, including a number I hadn’t seen in a supermarket before. In the fresh food sections in particular a number of items had a separate and prominent label indicating that it was produced in Victoria. In the few places where an item was missing, the label now had an apology and an offer of a rain check, rather than the old ‘This product is not available’ sticker. Most labels are now much bigger, and use very rounded serif fonts.
  • All the coles brand food (chips, chocolate, soft drinks)  now have new labels which show carefully arranged pictures of the food inside, the people and their odd quotes seem to have all disappeared.
  • The bakery and butchers section have been remodelled, and in contrast to the rest of the store this sections now look more old-fashioned than they once did. The butcher sign is now affixed to faux-corrigated iron (if that makes sense)  and not have everything displayed behind the case they had several kinds of fish on ice big plastic tubs in front of the counter. The bakers also had some funny hats on.

What I can gather from this is that Coles is concerned that they come off as monolithic and evil (which is correct because they are) and they’re attempting to looking more like your friendly local market. Unfortunately for them this doesn’t really work,  it’s an incredibly calculated effort to appear uncalculated- much like trying to push an elephant into a sheep to make it look less threatening. Of course this all means nothing and I’ll still shop there just like everyone else, but my heart goes out to the woman who has to stand there and explain how the automated checkout works.


One Response to “Working Together For You (Yes, You.)”

  1. richard October 8, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    Oh no, maybe they have changed the labelling on the water bottles too.

    They used to have a picture of a woman drinking from a Coles water bottle, and -on the label of the bottle she was drinking was a picture of her drinking from that very bottle-.

    It was awesome. Some graphic designer clearly had great fun implementing recursion in a water bottle label and now I fear it might be lost forever 😦

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